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Monthly Heroines

family life & style blog

Filtering by Tag: indonesian moms abroad

The One Who Has Got Something to Give

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

The idea of being away from a career, a precious little world made of lifelong best friends, and all of the familiarity of a home country might often seem to outweigh one's need to be with her husband abroad. As you might know, a lot of women choose to do a long-distance marriage for such reason (among many others, I don't judge, really). However, moving abroad might still be 'appealing' if your husband is being assigned to work or to study in big cities like New York or London. But what if he is being allocated somewhere more remote and unpopular? Will it be a deadend? chica1

Not to this hijabi mother-of-two, it's not! She bravely decided to follow her husband from Indonesia all the way to New Bedford, Massachusetts (never heard of the city before? Same here! -moz) about 4 years ago with a 4-month-old baby under her care. She is not afraid of the unknown. Even better, she subdues the unknown and make it familiar. She has inspired me to be proactive in enjoying the city I'm in. And I hope she'd inspire you too, as you read along.

A lionhearted wife, a dedicated mother, and a charming blogger, Here is Chica.



On being a Momma

I am the oldest of 6. My youngest sibling is 13 years younger than me. So I am used to the responsibility of being my mom's right hand when it comes to taking care of younger kids. Even so, becoming a stay-at-home mom has never occurred to me before. In fact, up until I was in year 6 of elementary school, I didn't know what a stay-at-home mom was! Because the mother I knew growing up was the kind of mom who was very much a career woman.

Many years later, at the start of my relationship with my husband, Ara (then-boyfriend) expressed his desire to marry me under one circumstance : I should be a full-time mom. I clearly rebelled against this! I was a student at one of Indonesia's  top universities, dreaming of working for an oil company with a paycheck of thousands of dollars after graduation! I couldn't end up staying at home!! Besides, I have always been active, I could never sit around at home all day! (turns out, being a SaHM never allows you to just sit around, right? hehehe). Anyway, we got engaged and then got into a 2-year long-distance relationship when my then-fiancee decided to pursue his master's degree in Germany.


As time passed us by, I started to realize that being a full-time mom does not mean forsaking my degrees (she got a master's degree from University of Indonesia, and her bachelor's was from ITB - moz).  There is a greater cause to fight for here! I am obliged to excellently play my role as a wife and as a mother, especially during these golden years of their growth as children, and our development as a family. This does not mean forgetting my long-term dreams and goals either, for Ara fully supports them. He has been my bestfriend since we were in college, by the way.


We finally got married! Our firstborn Malik Azka Sagara Hakim (4 y.o) came when we were about to move to the U.S. Ara went first, then Azka and I flew together a few months after (yes, that long flight, just the two of us!). Afterwards, Khalif Arana Razzaq Hakim (2 y.o) came into this world, being the first American in the family.


Raising two boys can keep you really busy. Alhamdulillah my dear husband accommodates my need of some "me time" by allowing me to have at least 1 hour away from home chores and the kids. You know, to work out, ride a bike, take photos, and to write. It helps keeping me balanced.

On Moving to the U.S.

I was so excited to move to the U.S. ! I can clearly recall that one time back in 2005 when I told my friends that I wanted to live in America with Ara and our own little family when they asked me "Where are you going to be in the next 5 years?" Alhamdulillah, by the power of dream, the universe conspired to make it happen!


To be honest, the early days of living here were not easy at all. I was thrilled to go on an adventure in America, but then I had to adapt with my life as a new mom, which could be really stressful. Besides, the absence of relatives and family really made it harder. I was overwhelmed. Back then, we lived in an empty apartment, we couldn't afford a furniture so we needed to borrow our landlord's. I couldn't even cook while eating out would be expensive. We didn't have a car so we had to ride buses everywhere. Ara even had to walk to his campus during hailing snow in winter back then! And in summer, our non-air-conditioned apartment would get very hot. Can you imagine?

But through all of these tough times, Ara would always say to me "enjoy the process"...


So we did, and we are stronger for it today.


On Enjoying New Bedford

It's a good thing that I have once worked as a researcher and that I am always eager to check on things. So for example, when the management of an apartment we wanted to move into told us that we were not illegible to do so because of our citizenship, I went online and looked for legal statutes to prove them wrong. As a result, the management agreed that they were being unfair and that we could move in to that apartment! It is much cheaper and it comes with good amenities and benefits! Thank God, I did the research right?

I then looked up ways to get involved in my community and to make the most of my time in this city. I started going to public libraries and museums while volunteering here and there, like in the picture below for example, when I volunteered for the National Park.


I signed up to various different communities and I just try to connect and make the most of everything that I have on my plate now. Volunteering is a great way for me to channel my energy and skills on a positive outlet, and in the future I really want to establish a volunteer-based organization to make changes, because I believe everyone has got something to give.

On Going Back to Indo
I miss Indonesia, I miss my parents and I definitely miss Indonesian food. But in the last 4 years since we moved here, my family and I have not gone back home yet, the tickets are so pricy!
My husband will be done with his PhD soon, but we might want to stay here just a little bit longer. So we'll see. I will just go on and enjoy the ride.



The Upper West-sider

Debora Manusama-Sinaga

Now that I'm officially an immigrant mom in the U.S., I think it's wise to hear and share some of the stories of moms who have been here way before me and experienced the perks of raising a kid or two in a foreign country. This one right here has only been in the U.S. for less than a year,  but here's the thing --> She is fresh from Indo, facing the challenges of not having a domestic helper + not having a carrier at the moment (these 2 things must be causing a major 'culture-shock', right?) while adapting to her new role as a mom in the Empire State that is none other than New York!!
Here is the young, loving, and always-eager-to-learn, Yania Andarini.


I have always been an active woman. With a degree from University of Indonesia in Dutch Literature, I have worked for a while as a media enggagement assistant manager at PT. Combiphar, before giving it up to accompany my husband in his studies in Columbia University, New York last year.
yania 2
At the start of our marriage, we didn't plan to have a kid yet to prolong our 'honeymoon' phase. However, we didn't try to postpone pregnancy either. We were just going to let it all happen naturally, according to God's will. Thankfully, He heard our prayers at exactly one year after our wedding.
When we found out about the baby, my husband and I were excited yet nervous at the same time. Why? because we were going to have an interview at the U.S. Embassy at the following week. Would they approve my visa if I've told them that I was pregnant?
Again, thankfully, it all went smoothly and we finally got to the Big Apple when I got to my second trimester, five months into the pregnancy to be exact.
yania 3_Fotor
Soon after, in 9 January 2014, our little man Harsya Aryasatya Ibrahim was born.
Unlike other moms back home who might have got their family and relatives around during labor, I didn't have anyone but my husband. It was just the two of us at the hospital, waiting for Harsya to be born. It got more challenging when we were told that Harsya's bilirubin numbers went up and that he needed to stay at the NICU.
My first weeks of motherhood got even tougher when I noticed Harsya's inability to latch on while breastfeeding. The confusion kept on building up because I was just not used to having a baby yet. Even though I've read tons of articles on taking care of babies during my pregnancy, actually doing it is a different thing! Frankly speaking, I found it pretty hard to enjoy motherhood during those days.
But again, thankfully, my husband stood by me. He helped me a lot in taking care of baby Harsya, though he had to show up in class the next morning. More importantly, he was patient enough to handle my emotional cycle that went up and down a lot during that period.
yania 1
As Harsya continues to grow, I begin to find joy in my new life as a mother. I begin to take it slow and learn to keep it all simple. The absence of domestic helper is definitely a challenge, because I've got to do it all by myself! But I've learned to take it easy and to leave the chores when Harsya needs me. The washing and cleaning can wait, right?
I've realized that when the mom is not happy, the baby won't be happy. They can tell the difference! That's why I try my best to keep a positive energy around him although I don't always feel like it.
To say I do not miss my working days would be a lie. I miss them at times, but I try to embrace this season we're in now. I am grateful for the fact that I get to experience all of this now in New York! Raising a kid, having a little family, living abroad...I view this phase as my extra long leave from work :)
Later on when we have settled back to Indonesia, I would like to go back to work. Why? Cause I know it's possible to balance things out. My mother is a living proof. She is a doctor who could still manage to wake up at dawn to prepare exam preparation quizzes for me, before she left for work. A mom who was always there for me when I needed her, someway, somehow. A mom who is tough yet patient. And a mom who is also a bestfriend to me.
It is going to take a lot for me to get to that point, but for now, I aim to focus on raising Harsya, supporting my husband as he continues his studies here, and make the most of our time here in New York..New York..